There’s a wide number of ways to assess what is ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’.
Pollution is one aspect of both, but there’s also other factors such as the type of energy used, how many vehicles are used and what types of vehicles they are, the planning of the city, how the buildings are designed, and more.
In this guide, we look at various cities that might rate well when it comes to different green and sustainability measures.
Summary – Greenest & Most Sustainable Cities In The World
There’s a number of ways to potentially measure ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’
One way is to look at the level of pollution in a city
But, there’s sustainable and non sustainable practices that can be analyzed across the different sectors and areas such as transport, energy/electricity production, building design, water use, waste management, how the city is planned and built out, sustainable resource management (and resource depletion), and more
Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Northern European cities ranked as reasonably sustainable and green across various different measures and ‘top cities’ lists
What is considered to be a top ranking city depends on the metrics used – so, it’s important to look at what metrics and indicators make up the top cities in a list
Something interesting to note is cities generally fall into the category of a producer city, or a consumer city.
A city that may at first look green and sustainable based on what is happening directly inside or close to the city, but, the indirect footprint of the city (i.e. what they import and export) also needs to be assessed to see if they are exporting and outsourcing some or majority their sustainability footprint
It’s also worth noting that there’s a difference between a sustainable/green city, and a livable city – these are different measures, but sustainable cities may be part of what makes a city livable for some people
Greenest & Most Sustainable Cities In The World
One top 10 list of the greenest cities, taking into account 9 different metrics:
1. Vienna, Austria
São Paulo, Brazil
Manchester, United Kingdom
10. Washington, D.C.
The metrics taken into account were % of public green spaces, % of total energy needs from renewable energy, % of population that uses public transportation to go to work, PM10 concentration in the air, water consumption (litres per capita) per day, walkability, availability of city wide recycling programs, availability of city wide composting programs, and number of quality farmer’s markets
– bestcities.org, and afar.com
The 10 top most sustainable cities in the world according to 11 sustainability metrics are:
… Northern European cities feature heavily in the top 100 cities, as well as Europe, Oceania, Brazil and in many coastal cities in the US. Asia and Africa have cities that rate poorly
youmatter.world goes into deeper detail about the sustainability metrics used, and what we can learn from sustainable cities
arcadis.com has different top cities lists, for people, planet, profit, and overall rankings
– arcadis.com, and youmatter.world
theculturetrip.com lists the top greenest cities in the world as Copenhagen, Vancouver, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Singapore, Portland, Reykjavik, Cape Town, Curitiba, and San Francisco
Telegraph.co.uk outlines Copenhagen as the world’s greenest city when taking into account green energy use, green transport, green waste management, sustainable building design, availability of green spaces like parks, eco friendly accomodation, availability of organic food and free range ingredients, commitment to being carbon neutral, commitment to sustainable resource management, green requirements on businesses
Factors That Can Be Used To Rank A City’s Sustainability & How Green It Is
How much energy it uses, and the type of energy it uses (fossil fuels vs renewables as an example)
How many vehicles there are vs what % of people walk or catch public transport, total miles travelled, amount of fuel burnt, the types of vehicles they are
How energy efficient they are (especially in terms of heating and cooling, insulation, etc), how they use water, how they dispose of waste, and more
– Industrial & Commercial
Sustainable practices in each industrial and commercial sector, as well as proper management and treatment of waste
– Waste Management
How effectively waste is disposed of and contained (as opposed to littered and polluted), level of recycling, composting and sustainable waste management, availability of bins and waste disposal around the city to citizens
– Level Of Greenery & Vegetation
Greenery (trees, plants, parks and vegetation) can both produce oxygen, and absorb air contaminants and emissions
– Water Quality, Quantity, Use & Management
– Emissions Footprint
– Consumption & Production Footprint
Adding up the footprint of the city when taking into account both consumption and production i.e. the sum of what is consumed and produced inside the city, but also what is produced outside the city to be consumed inside the city
– Sustainability/Being Green vs Livability
Note that sustainability and green indicators are different to the livability of a city.
Being green and sustainable may be part of what makes a city livable, but, livability includes a range of other objective and subjective factors that sustainability and being green don’t.
afar.com and bestcities.org list mor livability and overall ‘best city’ factors
Sustainability and green ratings are more focussed on resource depletion and environmental degradation.
Most & Least Polluted Cities In The World
In this guide, we look at the most and least polluted cities in the world according to air pollution, water pollution, general waste pollution, and other pollution measures.
Other guides relating to pollution are:
Cities With The Best Freshwater Supplies & Drinking Water Supplies
Top Emitting Cities In The World
Cities That Use The Most Renewable Energy